by Peter H. Reynolds
Candlewick Press, 2003
The Dot is a little square picture
book with a big, hot, vibrant orange dot on the cover. Inside,
it's nothing less than an exploration of the origin of creativity.
It deftly and gently explores the urge to make art; a heavy
topic, but Peter Reynolds makes it an entertaining tale. "I
just can't draw!" says Vashti. Her sensitive teacher shows
her a way to explore making art without getting hung up on
details. Her first step is to get Vashti to make a mark on
the paper, the second step is to have her sign it, and the
third is to frame it; there's the art market in a nutshell.
The children I read this book to were fascinated
by different ways of making a simple dot into a picture, especially
when Vashti makes a dot by NOT painting a dot. I watched comprehension
dawn in a six-year-old's face and turn to glee –
what a great explanation of negative space!
I love the ink, watercolor, and tea illustrations.
They're in The New Yorker school of shaky ink lines
and splashy washes, but the colors are subtle and the expressions
effective. The sure, casual handling works perfectly with
the story. Nearly every illustration is a round spot –
a dot, in fact.
The act of creation is very much present
in these pictures. The text is hand-lettered, and the ink
and watercolor (and tea) let you see exactly how each illustration
was drawn. Vashti is full of life and energy, a giant personality
inside the frame of a little square book. Her pride at the
school art show surrounds her, literally, in a golden glow.
The colors are complex and subtle – maybe it's
Peter H. Reynolds is the illustrator of
the Judy Moody books by Megan McDonald, as well as the founder
Studios. He has written and illustrated two books previously,
North Star and Sydney’s
This book inspired me to head right back
to my drawing board with a new vision, and might do the same
for you and your child. It's dedicated to Mr. Reynolds' 7th
grade teacher, who must be very proud. – S.B.